This week in Blu-ray, Michael Douglas tinkles away at a piano while the zombie apocalypse rages outside. All right, fine, those are actually two different movies, but wouldn’t it be great if we could mash them together? I know that I’d pay to see Brad Pitt save the world from Zombie Liberace. Wouldn’t you?
Judging by the trailers, ‘World War Z‘ is an in-name-only adaptation of the popular Max Brooks novel that it takes its title from. Seriously, the movie doesn’t even remotely resemble anything in the book. Production of the film was also notoriously held up for nearly an extra year when the studio saw director Marc Forster’s first cut and demanded extensive rewrites (by Damon Lindelof, the prospect of which will terrify many genre fans) and reshoots to the entire last act of the story. Despite these warning signs and a wimpy PG-13 rating, the movie actually turned out to be a pretty big hit with better than expected word-of-mouth. (Most of my friends who saw it had reactions along the lines of: “I really thought that would suck, but it wasn’t so bad.” I’ll let you decide whether you consider that to be a rave review.) One thing that most people agreed on was that the last-minute 3D conversion was totally worthless. This also appears to be another case where Paramount has split the Blu-ray’s bonus features up among several retailer exclusives.
If Steven Soderbergh can be believed, his Liberace bio-pic ‘Behind the Candelabra‘ will be his last film as a director – at least, his last for a long while. Even with the presence of big stars like Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, Soderbergh couldn’t get theatrical distribution for this project, and had to send it direct to HBO instead. That’s a sad state of affairs for an iconoclastic filmmaker who has directed a number of blockbuster hits in his day. It really speaks to what a mess the film industry is these days.
(Note that the listing for ‘The Underneath‘ is not Soderbergh’s underrated 1995 heist thriller. Rather, it’s a totally unrelated DTV horror flick that sounds like a bad knockoff of ‘The Descent’.)
Sofia Coppola continues her examination of the dysfunctional lives of the wealthy and privileged with a movie about the true story of ‘The Bling Ring‘, a gang of teenaged socialites (one of whom even had her own Reality show) who burgled the homes of celebrities including Paris Hilton (who allowed her real house to be used for the film) and Lindsay Lohan. This seems like an interesting convergence of filmmaker and subject matter, but reviews and word-of-mouth were extremely mixed. Many viewers called the movie “boring.” Of course, that’s not an uncommon complaint for Sofia Coppola.
Indie darling Brit Marling and her ‘Sound of My Voice’ director Zal Batmanglij (isn’t that the most awesome name for a filmmaker ever?) reteam for the corporate terrorism thriller ‘The East‘. Like all of Marling’s movies, this one got a lot of buzz on the festival circuit (she’s already an institution unto herself at Sundance), but the actress has yet to cross over to mainstream success.
In a pairing that has absolutely no thematic connection that I can discern, the Criterion Collection has chosen to release Ingmar Bergman’s 1978 drama ‘Autumn Sonata‘ and Richard Linklater’s 1991 debut comedy ‘Slacker‘ on the same day. The latter has never done much for me, but I feel like I should probably try it again. ‘Autumn Sonata’ is the only collaboration between the great Swedish filmmaker and the legendary ‘Casablanca’ star Ingrid Bergman. Weird trivia: While the two Bergmans were not actually related to one another, the director was married to another woman named Ingrid at the time.
I’m pretty sure that I had to study the screenplay for Joseph Makiewicz’s classic melodrama ‘A Letter to Three Wives‘ in film school, but I’m also pretty sure that I never actually watched the movie. I should probably rectify that at some point.
Universal continues to break out the titles from last year’s ‘Universal Classic Monsters Collection‘ box set to separate releases. This week brings us ‘Dracula‘, ‘Frankenstein‘, ‘Bride of Frankenstein‘ and ‘The Wolf Man‘.
In other horror offerings, Kino has Bela Lugosi in 1940s ‘The Devil Bat‘, Scream Factory has a Collector’s Edition of George Romero’s ‘Day of the Dead‘, and Millennium resurrects Christopher Lee in the 1966 Hammer Films sequel ‘Dracula: Prince of Darkness‘.
Designed as a modern-day reboot of Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic ‘Psycho’, the A&E network’s ‘Bates Motel‘ almost seems to have set itself up for failure. The original film is practically sacrosanct. The string of low-budget, Hitchcock-less sequels in the ’80s and the crummy remake by Gus Van Sant in 1998 should have taught everyone to just leave well enough alone. Yet ‘Lost’ producer Carlton Cuse pushed forward anyway, and the series quite surprisingly turned out to be one of the best new shows of the year. Freddie Highmore is quite good as the young, not-yet-psychotic Norman Bates, and Vera Farmiga is absolutely terrific as his high-strung mother, Norma. If you missed this on broadcast, the complete first season should make for good marathon viewing on Blu-ray.
Forgive the pun, but I felt that the pilot episode of the CW network’s ‘Arrow‘ (based on the DC Comics’ title ‘Green Arrow’) really missed its mark. However, it proved a hit with comic book fans desperate for a replacement to the recently-concluded ‘Smallville’. Some claim that the show got better as it went. Regardless, I don’t feel a burning need to find out for myself.
Finally, Universal also unleashes the second season of the supernatural drama ‘Grimm‘. I like the show, but it’s very uneven, and this season ends on an incredibly lame cliffhanger.
I’ll probably rent ‘World War Z’, while both of the Criterions and ‘A Letter to Three Wives’ will go on my wish list. I still have ‘Behind the Candelabra’ recorded unwatched on my DVR, so I should probably make time for that.
Will you buy or rent anything this week?